THE TEMPERATURE IS HOT BUT NEW COOL STUFF
A Cool Relationship: The Alabama Access to Justice Commission &
the Alabama Law Foundation
The Alabama Law Foundation and the Alabama Access to Justice Commission share a commitment to providing access to the legal system to low income Alabama citizens. However, the Alabama Law Foundation is focused on providing grants to entities that provide civil legal aide; the Alabama Access to Justice Commission is focused on bringing together entities that share a commitment to the issue of access to justice so that they may work together collaboratively towards justice for all Alabama citizens. Therefore, both the foundation and the commission provide support in their individual, different ways to volunteer lawyer/pro-bono organizations. The Alabama Law Foundation also provides staff support for the Alabama Access to Justice Commission. This newsletter will look at the commission’s website, www.alabamaatj.org, and the commission’s new program, “Alabama Legal Answers,” (and its new website, www.alabamalegalanswers.org), to give Alabama Lawyers the inside scoop on new and exciting resources for delivering legal access to all Alabama citizens.
AN COOL WAY TO MEET A LOT OF NEEDS–THE ALABAMA ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION’S WEBSITE
The Alabama Access to Justice Commission’s website, www.alabamaatj.org , has been up and running since October. The site offers information both to people looking for legal assistance and to professionals looking for ways to offer legal assistance. Under “I Need Help,” Alabama residents in need of legal assistance find information about the legal system, options for legal help, and contact information; under “I Can Help,” members of the legal profession find a variety of ways and places they can be of service. Access to Justice Chairman Henry Callaway explains that “this is the first time resources for volunteer lawyers for all of Alabama have been located in one place.”
The Alabama Access to Justice Commission was created by the Alabama Supreme Court in April 2007 to serve as a coordinating entity for the legally underserved, the legal community, social service providers, and the private and public sectors. The 19-member commission is comprised of a wide-range of citizens representing the legal profession, educational administration, the business sector, and volunteers. The commission’s mission is to improve ways that Alabama citizens, especially those who are vulnerable and those with low-incomes, can find effective and economical civil legal services. The Access to Justice Commission’s website provides a multi layered approach for both volunteers and clients and thus is a convenient and efficient way to meet a variety of needs.
A COOL NEW WAY TO VOLUNTEER: LEGAL ANSWERS
The Alabama Access to Justice Commission has introduced its new program, “Alabama Legal Answers” in Huntsville/ Madison County. Promoted as “Quick and Easy” in an introductory brochure, the web site, www.alabamalegalanswers.org, allows Alabama lawyers to answer legal questions regarding civil law posted by approved clients on line.
There are many advantages of the process for both clients and volunteer lawyers. The most obvious is flexibility –lawyers can answer questions in their office, at home, or even, in this technological age, on the go. Other positive aspects are that lawyers are anonymous to clients, are covered by malpractice Insurance, and receive a weekly reminder giving the number of unanswered question sorted by category. Access to Justice Commission Chairman Henry Callaway explains that the format allows lawyers to volunteer in small bits of time, “such as downtime between court cases, without further time or commitment.” Clients also benefit; they can submit a question and receive an answer quickly on line; they may also submit a response or a follow-up question.
Lawyers can easily volunteer for “Alabama Legal Answers” by following registration directions on the site. Clients who wish to participate also find instructions for applying on the site. For more information call 334 387 1601 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. “Alabama Legal Answers” is a quick and easy new way that the Alabama Access to Justice Commission seeks to fulfill its mission to improve ways that Alabama citizens can find effective and economical civil legal services.
COOL CERTIFICATE CHANGES
The Alabama Law Foundation is making the certification process easier for bar members who are required to certify whether they have an IOLTA account or are exempt because they do not hold client funds.
In-state bar members who purchased an occupational license are usually required to submit trust account certifications between May 1-June 30 every year. This year, the certification period is changed to September 1-October 31. Members renew their memberships during this period and so the foundation is making it easier by being able to take care of everything at the same time of year. As part of the above system, the foundation is developing a new website for trust account certification. Account information will not need to be entered every year unless a lawyer or firm opens a new account or closes an account.
The foundation will send log-in information to firm administrators in early August. Individual lawyers will receive certification reminders at the beginning of September. Links for the certification website will be available from both the Alabama Bar website and the Alabama Law Foundation website.
Alabama’s lawyers work hard every day and just as a matter of day to day business, contribute to society’s welfare. However, many citizens do not have the resources to pay for legal assistance and find themselves in dire need. Please support the Alabama Law Foundation’s mission of making civil legal aide available to all of Alabama’s citizens by:
Making a donation to the Alabama Law Foundation
Volunteering to help with legal assistance either with a regional Pro-Bono Organization and/or register for Alabama Legal Answers.